Friday, August 5, 2011

Sounds out the window

My lullaby tonight is the sweet a cappella sound of Kreyol hymns floating through the air from the Protestant church across the street.  The male and female harmonies sound faint by the time they reach my ears, filtered through the leaves of the trees and street noises—almost like a whisper or a thought.  For them to even reach my ears with no extra amplification, they must be belted out at the source —people crying out their prayers to God in song.

The lilting cadence of the hymns is punctuated by other sounds of people trying to negotiate their way through this bumpy life.  Car horns burst into the air.  Bold.  Unapologetic.  They greet.  They blare.  They announce.  They warn.  They reprimand.  They shout.  They accent the roar and rumble of motorcycles and trucks speeding past which form a more subtle crescendo and diminuendo.

During the day, the shouts of human voices are thrown in the mix.  Street vendors call out invitations and sales pitches to those who walk past.  Moto-taxi drivers tease and pick at each other as they wait for business to come their way.  Among the vendors and drivers there are few strangers — many people say hello to each other with a bright bonjou or bonswa

The people walk past dogs patrolling the street for edible trash.  Barks and yelps pop into the air.  Some are short barks of defense.  Others are more sustained cries of pain—a dog left to wander the streets wandered too far for his own good.  The desperate yelping goes on for a while, then stops.

Every so often a truck with a loud-speaker on top drives past, blaring Kreyol that is so fast-paced and distorted by the speakers that I can’t understand a word of it.  Is it a warning about the upcoming storm?  A public service announcement of some kind?  Or an evangelist?  Or perhaps a zealot of the political variety?  Not sure.  There is so much around me that I can’t understand yet.

Late in the afternoon I hear this kind of amplified fast speech and thought it was another truck, but then realize that it doesn’t fade into the distance as it passed and drove away.  I listen more carefully and could make out some words.  Beni Swa Etelnel! Aleluya!  Shouted praises to God, blasting from a church out onto the street and through the window.  The spirited and enthusiastic yelling of the prayers is so amplified by their speaker system that it called out even over the constant car horns.  

But now, well into the evening, all of these loud and punctuating sounds die down, with only the occasional car horn or motorcycle rolling past.  And when there is a break in the street’s din, the song of the faithful wafts in.  Like a fond memory.  Like a gentle prayer.  The sound of a whisper through the window and into my ear.

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